Thank the gods that the gameplay is right up there with the best of the puzzle games. Although it has a few nagging control issues, MonkeyBrains
is nonetheless a great entry into the annals of brainbending games, and a decidedly nicely-priced entry at that.
In MonkeyBrains, you control both Doctor Simius and a varying troupe of monkeys as you attempt to save the world from the evil Dr. Kreep. There's not much of a plotline, really, although it roughly sets up the good Doctor's predicament -- he's in a wheelchair, but he has to get to the end of each level so that he can save the world. Unfortunately, the levels are singularly inhospitable to someone who can't jump or swimp or anything else useful.
This, of course, is where the monkeys come in. You have the ability to switch just who you control -- hence, MonkeyBrains. By controlling the various monkeys and the good Doctor, you can eventually complete each level and bring Dr. Kreep down to his knees.
You control the monkeys with a series of simple controls. They can jump, call other monkeys, and maniuplate simple objects -- they can pull switches, pick up rocks or monkeys or even the Doctor, and so on. These sorts of manipulations are necessary for advancement, along with a bevy of jumping and timing puzzles. Fortunately, for the less mechanically-inclined of us, the game centers more puzzle-solving aspects and less on pure action or timing sequences. You still have to be fleet of finger, but it's not necessarily as important as it can be in these sorts of games. Which is, in my book, a Good Thing.
Each level generally consists of a series of puzzles. Sometimes they can be done out of order, but oftentimes there's a logical sequence that you can follow to help you get through. Being monkeys, the beasts that you're not controlling don't necessarily help you -- they'll oftentimes wander aimlessly, or pull switches when you'd rather them not, or not stand still on buttons you need to have pressed. It feels a little like Sheep, although not quite as infuriating.
MonkeyBrains is being sold in an episodic format. Each episode has a few levels, and the entire set of six episodes will have you playing for quite a long time. It's not as many levels as I would have liked, but it's certainly enough that you don't feel ripped off. There's also a multiplayer version of the game, where you can either work together on a level and solve it with the help of two brains [which is surprisingly useful], or fight each other in a sort of monkey deathmatch. While the versus mode is entertaining for a bit, the cooperative game is definitely the more enjoyable of the two. It's a shame that it's not Internet playable.